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Historical Sites of Grand Rapids



William Powers Innes
(Lot 35, Block 6)

William Powers Innes was born in New York City on January 22, 1820. He was employed as, a civil engineer on the Erie railroad, in New York at the age of 16.

Innes came to Grand Rapids in early 1853 where the Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee Railroad Company employed him as a civil engineer. As the Grand Rapids area was expanding into a central railhead Innes stayed and developed several rail lines for various companies.

Shortly after the first Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) Innes obtained permission, from President Abraham Lincoln, to form a regiment of engineer officers and soldiers, along with a battery of artillery. In August of 1861 Colonel Innes began recruiting construction workers for his regiment and in October 1861 they entered into service. This regiment was the First Regiment of Michigan Engineers and Mechanics. The regiment was assigned to the Army of the Ohio and did most of its service in the western theater of the war.

The job of this regiment was to keep the existing roads and railways open and to build new where needed. Innes and company constructed a railroad bridge along the Tennessee River in time for General Don Carlos Buell to reach Ulysses S. Grant on the evening of the first day of the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburgh Landing). Buell’s arrival turned the tide in favor of the Union forces.

At the end of the war Innes was made a brevet brigadier general of volunteers for "gallant and efficient service".

Innes remained in the Tennessee area, working on railroads, until 1868 when he returned to Grand Rapids because of ill health.

Upon his return Innes became a consultant on railroads and mass transit. He was serving as Commissioner of Railroads of Michigan at the time of his death on August 2, 1893.